MCA Delays European Safety Exemption Request For Scillonian III

scillonian III 2013The Maritime and Coastguard Agency has delayed a request to Brussels to exempt the Scillonian III from European safety laws.

They pulled their application before a European Commission meeting last Friday where the issue was due to be discussed.

Justin Stares, Editor of the news website  says the fire sprinkler system on the Scillonian III doesn’t comply with current EU legislation on passenger ships, which was introduced after she was built in 1977.

The water tank is located in the wrong place and can’t be moved.

Justin says the UK government pulled the application after being told that commissioners were unlikely to approve it.

They’ve been told to report back to the Brussels committee that looks after ship safety, which meets behind closed doors, with a plan.

That’s likely to happen early next year while the Scillonian III is laid up over winter.

But he says realistically, the only two solutions are to find an alternative arrangement for the sprinkler system, or to scrap the vessel altogether.

The MCA has previously told Radio Scilly that they’re satisfied that the boat meets the national safety standards and, in their opinion, the EC standards too.

And Justin says the EC has not ordered the boat to stop sailing, so passengers shouldn’t be affected in the short term.

He says there were a number of exemptions being tabled by the MCA for various vessels, not just the Scillonian.

And he feels that the UK is “trying to get its house in order” after issuing safety waivers for some time without informing Europe.

The MCA said yesterday that their discussions with the EC are ongoing and in the meantime, the Scillonian III can continue to operate.

And it shouldn’t affect sailings next season. They say during March to October the vessel operates under UK regulations, not European law.

Subject to completion of satisfactory annual surveys over the winter lay up, the MCA anticipates being able to issue further passenger certificates for next year.

Marian Bennett from transport campaign group FRIST says the government’s withdrawal of the Scillonian exemption request is ”unexpected.”

She said FRIST was hoping the exemption would be granted, to allow winter operations in fair conditions following the recent investment in the boat.

The recent travel preference survey identified the importance of a winter ferry service to islanders. Only improvements to the Penzance quay terminal facilities rated higher.

Marian adds that FRIST’s concern is that the Scillonian III is 36 years old and there will be a point where the operator cannot economically justify expensive modifications to keep her compliant with current regulatory standards.

The Steamship Company declined to comment.

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